Q&A - Who is Frankie Cosmos?
Frankie Cosmos talks about alter egos, life advice and khaki dad shorts
Words— Jeremy Freed
Greta Kline, better known as Frankie Cosmos, is a Brooklyn-based musician known for her distinct brand of effervescent lo-fi indie pop. Kline broke out as a teenager in the 2010s, releasing a robust catalogue of songs via a Bandcamp page, followed by a debut record that attracted praise from Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. Kline is on the road this month (including stops in Toronto and Montreal) touring Close it Quietly, a new studio album full of sweet and sad pop tunes that ask big questions about life, love and happiness. We chatted with her about the tour, songwriting and personal style.
"I think Frankie Cosmos is more of a place than a person. It’s where I can go to explore different parts of myself."
What’s the relationship between Frankie Cosmos and Greta Kline? Is Frankie a side of Greta? Or is it more of a Ziggy Stardust situation where it’s a total alter ego? Or both? Or neither?
I think Frankie Cosmos is more of a place than a person. It’s where I can go to explore different parts of myself.
How does your songwriting process usually happen? Does it serve as an emotional outlet for you?
Yes, it is definitely an emotional outlet for me. It happens pretty naturally. The process is different for different songs, but it’s a lot of playing around and trying not to inhibit myself and seeing what sticks.
What kinds of things were you thinking about when you wrote the songs on Close it Quietly?
There’s a lot going through my mind when I’m writing a song, and sometimes it gets written over a span of time and various locations. “With Great Purpose” is one that I started to write in New Zealand and finished in Brooklyn. I was thinking about exploring and seeing new parts of myself, and feeling lost and trying to feel OK with changing.
How has your writing process changed since you started releasing albums and touring regularly?
I think the biggest change is not being at home as much which means not being able to finish songs as regularly or as quickly. So a lot of songs get half-written, or the lyrics get written on the road, but then I don’t get to really play with the melodies or the guitar parts until a later when I’m home.
The earnestness and honestness in your music is part of what draws people to it… but does that ever get you in trouble when people like me ask you questions? Do you feel like you give too much of yourself in interviews?
Sometimes! I am getting better at preserving parts of myself or keeping it vague. I always think about this Joanna Newsom quote from an interview: "If I could say it all the way, I wouldn’t have bothered making a record."So I don’t think there is a way anyone can understand a song better from a conversation with me than from just listening to the song.
Another side to that would be that since your songs seem to be so intimately emotional, performing them night after night on tour could be incredibly draining… is that the case? Or is it more like that thing where you just repeat something again and again until it loses all meaning to you?
It’s neither! The songs don’t lose meaning to me over time, but they also don’t always take me right back to the moment I wrote them! They gain different meanings or change sometimes. It’s still super emotional for me to perform at all, so it can definitely be draining, but it can also be empowering and can make me feel amazing!
Have you got better at touring in the last couple of years? Is it possible to get better at touring or is it just dependent on how much money you have to spend on fancier hotels & nicer buses and stuff like that?
There are certain skills to hone, some of which I’ve gotten better at, like packing, or figuring out when to eat compared to performance time. But there are other skills I am still working on, like figuring out how to carve out alone time, or how to exercise on tour. Depending on the tour, priorities can shift, but I think we all get better at it! In a weird way the more you tour the harder it gets because you have to try and figure out how to integrate it into your life….like when I was first touring I never would have been trying to carve out alone time or exercise haha.
You’ve said that you’re surprised at how often fans come up to you at the merch table and ask for life advice. Are you getting any better at helping people through their heartbreaks?
I don’t know why anyone wants advice from me haha! I’m still figuring out life! But I’ve gotten better at setting the boundary, or knowing how much I want to go deep with a stranger at any given moment. Sometimes I’m down, but sometimes I’m just wiped out and not up for it, so it’s all about letting myself feel like it’s a choice.
The video for “Windows” is so charming. What’s going on here?
That’s my BFF Eliza and me. She has directed a handful of videos for Frankie Cosmos, and this time I wanted her to be in it. It just felt like the right feeling, the way that time passes over the course of a day with a close friend, and listening to music together, etcetera.
What about the clown makeup. That was unexpected!
The clown make-up was originally a hiding mechanism because she was nervous about being on camera in such an earnest way, but then it became just a really fun way to sort of let loose and unmask ourselves through the mask? I dunno, it’s kinda random but it was a really fun two days of shooting!!
Your high-waisted khaki dad shorts in that video are pretty great as well. Is that your own outfit?
Yes! I wore those the majority of the summer. I got them in New Orleans on tour one day when it was hot during a tour which I hadn’t packed any shorts. Sometimes I do a bad job packing…
Your approach to clothes is super interesting, because it seems very informed and intentional, but there’s also this great element of randomness and contrast to it. Does that make sense?
Yes that sounds about right haha!
I suppose what I’m getting at is… Are you interested in fashion at all or do you just kinda do your own thing in your own way?
I’m definitely doing it my own way, but for me, that is being interested in fashion! It’s just more about a gut feeling for me than an interest in literally knowing what’s going on in the fashion world (other than trends I notice just from walking around). I always feel the best and the most myself when I’m comfortable. Usually, that means dressing like more of a “tomboy”, but once in a while I’ll feel “girly” and want to wear something feminine, maybe even makeup. I used to just go on stage wearing whatever I was wearing that day, but now I’m starting to want to differentiate it more from my life and put on more of a stage “look”!
What clothes are you loving these days?
I’ve recently been wearing a maxi skirt that is a hand-me-down from my mom. It has a photo print on it of hay, grass and sky. It is sort of a perfect late-summer item for the varying temperatures. And it rides a perfect line for me of being a skirt but also feeling kind of tomboyish too in a weird way, hard to explain but it just is comfortable in a way that I find a lot of "women’s clothes" not to be generally! I’ve been wearing that a lot. Separately I was really into the way Rue dresses in Euphoria. I liked seeing some tomboy representation and also thought that character just pulls it off in a way where she both looks comfortable and very cool.